Salted fish and tobacco are traded for fur and feed grains. A block of raw wood is whittled into a toy horse and sold at a local artisan market. Watermelon seeds, sowed and tended, become full-fledged fruit before exchanging hands at a roadside stall.
Making things from scratch, cultivating them by hand, and carving out a living by selling and trading them—these are the inceptive transactions of commerce. Commerce has evolved in the past few hundred years, with the biggest changes coinciding with rail transport, the manufacturing boom, and the internet. As far as we’ve come, the roots of commerce remain firmly planted.
Today, thousands of Shopify merchants produce made-by-hand goods, selling them at craft shows, pop-up shops, and through their online stores worldwide. Ecommerce gives makers more reach, and apps help keep their businesses running more efficiently, letting them focus on what they do best: their craft. The best part is that many of these business ideas can be started from home with minimal upfront investment.
Over the years, we’ve shared deep dives into DIY businesses, producing case studies and guides to help you turn your handmade passion into a living.
But maybe you’re not quite sure what things to make. Maybe you’re looking for a new hobby to busy your idle hands (and earn additional money on the side). Or maybe you’re not crafty at all.
We’ve compiled a list of 14 things to make and sell online for free from home, things to appeal to everyone, from the beginner to the advanced craftsperson, from skilled trades to relatively hands-off ventures. Each idea includes a link to a comprehensive guide, as well as a Shopify store to inspire your own.
14 Things to Make and Sell
1. Bath bombs and soaps
A simple Google search returns pages of tutorials to teach you to make your own soaps, bath bombs, and other beauty products at home. They range from simple recipes for bath salts to more complicated formulations requiring emulsions and preservatives. This business idea has low creativity requirements—soaps and bath bombs can be made using commercial molds—but packaging and branding are important in beauty, so consider hiring design help.
Get started: How to Make Bath Bombs
- Keep your inventory tight—fresher bath bombs have more fizz, and natural ingredients (like essential oils) in soap can expire.
- Investigate your raw ingredient sources to ensure they’re beauty grade and safe for skin. Shopify merchant Salem Essentials recommends understanding the basics of chemistry.
- Check with your local government to ensure that your production facility (even if it’s your own kitchen) meets health standards. In the US, for example, the FDA sets guidelines for ventilation, air control, and surfaces.
2. T-shirts and printed merchandise
This is a maker business for the non-maker. Your original idea can be designed (this is where the “maker” comes in) and printed onto various goods—including t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and dog bandanas—and shipped directly to your customers. It’s a hands-off business that has a very low barrier to entry and an easy thing to make and sell. If you want to increase the handmade factor, consider learning the art of screen printing and purchasing equipment to print your designs at home.
- T-shirts and printed merch can supplement an existing business. Gyms, musicians, and charities, for example, can sell branded swag to current audiences and help to build their brands.
- Not a designer? Use sites like Shopify Experts, Creative Market, or Upwork to find talent to help you turn your ideas into designs for your t-shirt business.
- Use a print and fulfillment app, like Printful, Lulu Express, Gooten or Teelaunch. They integrate with your Shopify store and automatically print, fulfill, and ship each order.
Jewelry is another business idea that can range from simple and low-tech (say, beaded necklaces and woven bracelets) to skilled trades with special equipment (such as silversmithing). It’s a saturated market, so doing your homework up front is important—how can your designs stand out? Is there a niche market to sell to?
Get started: How to Start a Jewelry Making Business
- Fashion is fickle. Validate your idea by tracking trends in jewelry—use Google Trends, and follow popular fashion blogs and influencers.
- Consider adding apps like Jewelfie to help your customers with fit.
- Photography is extremely important but also difficult because of the scale and reflective qualities of jewelry. Invest in great photos by hiring a pro. You can save money by partnering with complementary apparel brands to share the cost of lifestyle shoots.
- This is a great idea for budding young entrepreneurs. Basic jewelry like beaded necklaces are among the many things kids can make and sell.
4. Curated gift and subscription boxes
A gift or subscription box business is a great idea for those who are less crafty but have an eye for curation. Contrary to print-on-demand t-shirts, curated box businesses can be very hands on. Assembly can be a tedious task, but the business has its advantages: subscription boxes are usually packed all at once at the same time each month and in the same size box, making the shipping process simple.
Get inspired: A Day in the Life of Sophia Pierro, Entrepreneur
Get started: How to Launch a Subscription Box Business
- Calculate your storage and assembly needs. Can your home accommodate your business, or do you need to rent additional space?
- Ease your customers into commitment. Offer a substantial discount to those who pay up front for subscriptions, or offer the first month free.
- Use an app like Recurring Orders and Subscriptions to manage subscriptions.
The candle business in the US is a $2.3-billion industry, and within that there are several niches to explore: religious, birthday, eco and natural, scented, beeswax, novelty, and more. Like with soap, there’s no shortage of DIY tutorials for novice candle makers, and basic melt and pour methods require little to no previous craft skills.
Get inspired: How One Founder Fulfilled Her Cottage Living Dream
- Get insured and use safety labelling. Due to the nature of candle use, and the increased risks of injury or fire damage, be sure to protect your business from civil suits that may result from the use of your product.
- Tap into a niche to stand out in a crowded market. Frostbeard Studio appeals to book lovers with cleverly named candle scents and copy filled with literary references.
- Pay attention to branding and packaging. Candles don’t differ much from an ingredient perspective, but your product can stand apart with beautiful packaging and strong branding.
Candy, cookies, baked goods, chocolates, and jams. Sugar can be spun and dissolved and baked into endless things to make and sell. This is a category with unique complications—legalities, labelling, and shelf life—but also with lots of room to get creative. Niche markets include: holidays and occasions, custom, novelty, catering, pet treats, and gift baskets. Be sure to investigate the viability of selling your product online. Are fragility and refrigeration barriers to shipping?
Get started: How to Start an Online Food Business
- Trace the supply chain. Carefully select your raw ingredient suppliers to ensure that what’s on your label is what’s inside.
- Consult with a lawyer or food inspection agency to be sure that your labelling meets local requirements for nutritional content, ingredients, and allergy warnings.
- Rotate your inventory and stress the importance of doing so to everyone who handles it.
7. Art and prints
Forget the story of the starving artist. It’s never been a better time to create the art you want to create and sell it (without selling out). Whether you’re dealing in fine art or reproduction prints, you can access far-reaching audiences and sell worldwide.
Get started: How to Sell Art Online
- Work with an established gallery like Shopify-powered Spoke Art to show your work in person and help build an audience for your online store.
- Have your work professionally photographed or, as a low-cost option, scan it on a flatbed scanner in pieces and stitch the image together in Photoshop.
- Consider reproducing your art in multiple formats, from prints and cards to t-shirts and mugs. Do it yourself through a print and fulfillment company, or license your work to other ecommerce brands.
Make things and sell them from home with a Shopify store. Start your free 14-day trial.
8. Digital products
The digitization of goods shows no signs of stopping. Making and selling digital products like font licenses, wedding invitation templates, webinars, or Photoshop actions requires a little up-front work but is relatively hands off once you get started. The overhead costs are very low, and some typical pain points that come with physical goods (inventory, shipping) are non-existent.
Get started: How to Sell Digital Products with Shopify
- Choose a delivery method. Apps like Digital Downloads and Sky Pilot integrate with your Shopify store to automatically deliver digital goods, or provide a download link to each customer.
- If you’re hosting files on Shopify, make sure files are each 5 GB or less. For larger files, try compressing them into .zip archives.
9. Enamel pins
Enamel Pins remain incredibly popular and are still on a strong upward trend. You’ll usually work with a manufacturer to make enamel pins, but the design component can be as involved as you make it. Design your own, or work with a designer to illustrate your vision.
Get started: How to Make and Sell Enamel Pins
- If you choose to design your own pins, use Photoshop, Illustrator, or free alternatives like Pixlr and GIMP. Stick to solid colors (no gradients) and avoid fine details.
- Whether you manufacture overseas or locally, be sure to ask the right questions of your manufacturer: What are your clasp and material options? Can you send me physical samples? What packaging options do you offer?
10. Traditional handcrafted goods
Leather tooling, wood carving, and embroidery are all traditional mediums with thriving markets. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas for DIY crafts to sell. The backlash against mass production is driving trends back to slow food, one-of-a-kind and bespoke goods, and artist craftsmanship. Many of these disciplines require skills honed over time, but you can access your inner maker and learn these skills via online tutorials, local workshops, and trial and error.
- Much of the appeal of crafted goods is the story behind the maker. Weave your own story into product pages, a compelling About page, and even packaging.
- How will you scale? If your idea takes off, consider how you will maintain the handmade nature of your goods while producing in large quantities: Can you hire contract makers? Can certain components of the process be outsourced to a manufacturer then finished by hand?
Consult Google Trends to determine how to use your skills to make things that are in high demand. Wine racks and hanging chairs are identified among some popular things to make and sell in 2020.
11. Lip balm and cosmetics
Like bath bombs and soaps, lip balm is an easy thing to make with the tools you already have in your home. Simple formulations using beeswax and natural oils require little more than a heat source to assemble. You don’t need fancy equipment, but you should ensure that your setup still meets the standards of the industry and follows local regulations for home production. When you’re ready to scale, lip balms are a gateway to more complicated cosmetic formulations.
- Invest in ingredients—research suppliers and the source of your ingredients to be sure you’re using those that have been rated for cosmetic use.
- Understand the labelling laws of any country or region where you plan to sell your products. In some countries, the word “organic” is regulated, and you cannot use it unless you have acquired the proper certification.
12. Pottery and clay objects
One of the more technical items on our list, pottery requires skill and equipment. If you’re new to the craft, check out local college and community programs to give you the know-how and shared studio space to use the kiln and tools (versus investing in your own at the start). There are, however, other materials that have a lower barrier to entry and can be used to make traditionally potted items, like planters and ornaments. Try air clay, polymer clay, or poured concrete.
Get inspired: How I Build and Sell Handmade Products in My Spare Time
- Things to make with clay or clay alternatives include: planters, sculptures, ornaments, jewelry, magnets, containers, and coasters.
- Have a future entrepreneur in your family? Some clay alternatives are quite safe and offer many possibilities for things kids can make and sell.
13. Pet supplies
Making products for pets is a business idea with huge potential. In fact, the global market is estimated to top $269 billion by 2025. What can we say? Fur babies deserve to be spoiled. Dog treats, catnip toys, and pet collars are all items that can easily be made from home if you already have a fairly creative side.
Get started: Sell Pet Products: Ideas for Your Own Pet Business
- Use your own pets (free models!) as the “faces” of your business.
- If you’re making and selling treats or toys—basically, anything that can be ingested—be sure to do your research. Are your cookie ingredients safe for pets? Do your toys have small parts that could cause choking? Have you considered the appropriate labels and warnings to protect yourself legally?
Music is a challenging industry, but if you have the talent, the world should know! While it can be tough to break in, there are many advantages to starting a music business in the age of ecommerce and TikTok. Selling stock music, giving music lessons, licencing your songs to brands, selling merch, and maybe, just maybe, becoming the next big internet thing are all possible business avenues for budding musicians. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that fame can be achieved right from your own bedroom.
- Brand storytelling is important, even when your brand is just you.
- Build your following by collaborating with other artists and sharing your music across multiple platforms.
The ideas don’t stop here—there are many creative ways to make money through crafting your own goods. You can make and sell everything from dog biscuits and coffee tables to handbags and terrariums. Browse our case studies for more maker inspiration.
FAQ: Things to make and sell
How do I make things?
You can learn anything from embroidery to car maintenance thanks to free expert DIY videos on YouTube. Pinterest is also a source of inspiration for what to make, trends in handmade goods, and step-by-step tutorials.
How do I find popular things to make and sell?
What handmade things make money?
Again, make sure there is a market for your goods and that you understand pricing strategy so you choose products that have the potential to turn a profit.
How do I price crafts and handmade goods?
There are simple formulas for establishing a retail price for your products that factor in all of your costs (materials, labor, overhead) plus a markup. But there are also several more involved strategies for setting price, like psychological pricing, premium pricing, and penetration pricing.
How do I sell handmade things online and make money?
Once you have a product, start with this step-by-step resource to help you start your business, then set up a Shopify store with a free trial. You’re ready to get selling!